by Katie Julius

You have heard it a thousand times. One of the most common “concerns” when families are homeschooling or considering homeschooling is that children will not be socialized. I think most of those who have spent any time as a home educator can easily debunk this assertion.

However, I would argue that, at least here in Southern California, we have swung too far the other direction. Some comments I’ve seen on social media discussions include:

“We are involved in so many activities, we are hardly home!”

“We homeschool, but most of the time, we are doing school in the car.”

“We are actually going to be home one whole day this week!”

Now, I want to be clear, there is nothing wrong with participating in activities outside the home. In fact, I highly encourage finding a community of like-minded homeschoolers to walk alongside you on your homeschool journey and to supplement your learning at home. Sometimes a co-op or class is a great addition to your family’s curriculum.

What I want to further explore in this article is the over-scheduling of our lives and the need to actually BE HOME–to challenge the mindset that it is a badge of honor to never be home.

As I was sitting down to write this week and asking God to reveal what He wanted me to share on the topic of “home,” I began to feel very convicted. Our family struggles with this very topic. If you look at our family calendar, you will likely find just one or two days a month when we’re home ALL day, and maybe a few other days that we are home until early or mid-afternoon. We are involved in two different homeschool groups who do park days, field trips, and a monthly co-op; music classes; American Heritage Girls; Awana; and we volunteer once a week at the aquarium. In the fall, my daughter was also part of the homeschool marching band color guard that practiced or performed three days a week.

I don’t share this to brag. On the contrary, I am sharing this with you because this is a common struggle and I want to be transparent that I don’t have this all figured out and am very newly working through what this should look like in our home. With an only child who is extremely extroverted and craves time with friends, I have found it difficult to find a good balance.

However, in the week and a half that followed Christmas this year, we got a taste of what life would be like when we aren’t running from one activity to the next. These are some of my personal observations about changes I noticed in my family during this time when we were forced to slow down.

Less Stress
Despite the fact that we were on “break” from school during the holidays, we actually did a TON of learning activities at home. My daughter spent hours playing with her LEGOs. She explored electricity with a new snap circuit set she received as a Christmas gift. We read together – a lot! We played board games together. We worked on a project from her art subscription box. She worked on some activities from her American Heritage Girls badges. We even practiced addition facts and high frequency words!

There was a lot less yelling, arguing, and stress in our home during those 12 days. We didn’t have the chaos of hurriedly gathering all the things we needed for our daily activities while we threw clothes on and scarfed down breakfast, running out the door so we wouldn’t be late. I wasn’t yelling, “get your shoes on” or “did you bring your jacket?”

Stronger Relationships
We enjoyed our time together and did things we haven’t done together in a long time.

Reducing the stress level in our home has made it easier to develop our relationships with one another. (It’s much easier to be with someone when you aren’t upset at them). We had the time to actually be together, to enjoy meals together (we saved so much money by not eating fast food, too!), and to do activities in and around our home together.

While friendships are an important piece of our social lives, they should not come at the cost of the relationships with those in our family.

Better Learning Environment
Once we did start up school again in early January (when many of our activities were still on break), I found that a structured place to do school and doing school at the same time in our routine helped, not only with continuity of learning, but also in attitudes. My daughter actually asked to do school one day. I almost fell out of my chair!

We do some learning in the car (mostly memorizing Bible verses through music or practicing the music for our co-op’s musical theater performance). Inevitably, she sees something outside the car that grasps her attention, drops something, or is too hot or too cold. Distractions in a learning environment make it that much more challenging to learn. Yes, some kids are able to block out those distractions, and if they can, great. Most kids aren’t able to do so.

When kids are surrounded by constant distractions, their retention of what they learn is going to drop dramatically. Being home typically creates an environment that can help with learning, which makes school easier for both you and your kids.

Time for Other Things
As you can see from a rundown of our activities I mentioned above, we are busy. When people ask me what my hobbies are, I struggle to answer because I don’t have time for one! While the goal of being home isn’t to fill all your time with other projects or activities inside your home, it can create time for doing things that you and your kids have been putting off doing.

On January first, I joined a “decluttering challenge” on Facebook. Thirty minutes a day, I went through and decluttered one small area of my home. Those thirty minutes turned into two to three hours some days. However long I spent, the results at the end of the day were not just a cleaner space with less stuff, but also a sense of accomplishment, resolve to continue, and a weight being lifted as I was freeing space in my home, mind, and schedule by having less stuff! Is this a “fun” hobby? No. But it’s something I had time to do because I wasn’t leaving my home for twelve hours a day like we have done before.

My family has just seen a glimpse of what life could be like if we did less and were home more. Obviously, in the middle of the year, we have commitments to the activities with which we have filled our schedule and it would be difficult to break those. However, as we near the time of this school year when we start looking to next year (yes, that’s almost upon us!), I am challenging myself to take a hard look at what we do outside our home and what we might be able to cut. What that looks like will vary for each family, but I encourage you to pray and ask God how, as a homeschooler, you can BE HOME.